Best Festivals & Events in New Orleans

Best Festivals & Events in New Orleans

New Orleanians know how to throw a party. Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists join locals in celebrating everything from po boys to Mardi Gras. Weekends are full of great dining and live music, but also a bevy of festivals, balls and events to tickle your tummy and tantalize your senses. Many of these events have been on hiatus due to Covid-19. When they come back, expect some epic parties and events in 2022. Here’s a look at the best festivals and events in New Orleans for 2022.


Pussyfooters and their Pussy Handler at the Blush Ball

While most of the country is covered up in winter clothes and snowshoes, locals celebrate the beginning of carnival season, always twelve days after Christmas. Two events that stand out on 12th night are the Phunny Phorty Phellows, a krewe of forty crazy Oak Street characters who mask up and hop on the streetcar for a festive ride down St. Charles Avenue. Locals head over to Willow Street to drink a few beers, toast the krewe, sample their first king cake of the season, and catch some beads from the mysterious riders. Downtown tourists and a smattering of locals head over to the French Quarter to watch the Joan of Arc Parade, highlighted by nearly naked women atop majestic horses, marching bands and costumed revelers. Later in the month, the Carnival Balls begin. Some are secret and for krewe members only. Others like the Pussyfooter’s Blush Ball and the popular 610 Stomper’s Sweet 610 Debutante Ball are rocking parties while raising money for local charities. Members sell the tickets to friends and family so if you ain’t one of these, you likely aren’t going to the best parties of the month. If you’re a sports fan, the Caesar’s Superdome is always host to the AllState Sugar Bowl, and that always brings a raucous crowd to the French Quarter at the beginning of the month.


A Float in Krewe du Vieux skewers the former President

Carnival usually occurs in mid-February, but Fat Tuesday can come as early as February 3rd or as late as March 9th. Three weeks before Fat Tuesday is the first big parade of the season, Chewbacchus (February 5), which began about a decade ago and has grown a following amongst sci-fi fans, freaks, and geeks as they line up in the Bywater to salute the costumed revelers. A broader array of fans make their way to the Marigny and French Quarter the following Saturday for the popular Krewe du Vieux parade (February 12).The satirical costumed krewe delivers plenty of lewd and lascivious antics along with skewering local and national politicians, elites, and dirty businesses. The all-walking parade features eighteen baudy floats, local brass bands, and eighteen hundred marchers handing out homemade trinkets and raunchy throws. If you can get a ticket to the ball that follows the parade, it’s one of the best parties of the year. The following weekend features a more family-friendly slate of parades like the Krewe of Pygmalion, King Arthur and the Femme Fatales. Post-Katrina saw the rise of all-woman marching krewes that stormed on the stage and added a little spice to the customary lineup of floats, high school marching bands, flambeauxs, and throws. Not to be outdone, the 610 Stompers took the dance troupes to the national level with the all-male krewe going on to march (and dance) in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade the past few years. Don’t forget to take those kiddos to the Barkus Parade (February 13), the popular dog parade that features costumed pups and their loveable humans dressed to make you laugh and smile. The party heats up on the Wednesday before Fat Tuesday as the parades grow in size and popularity. Nighttimes feature the Krewe of Nyx (February 23), Muses (February 24), Hermes (February 25), Tucks Saturday day, Endymion (February 26), Thoth Sunday day, Bacchus (February 27th), and Harry Connick Jr.’s Orpheus (February 28th). Most of these parades are accompanied by a huge Carnival Ball, some for members and others open to the public. Two of the most popular are the Endymion Extravaganza (February 26) at the Superdome, which will feature Diana Ross and Maroon Five, and the Orpheuscapade (February 28), which is usually headlined by Harry Connick and other renowned musicians.

A costumed reveler at MOMs Ball

While some of these balls are stodgy black tie affairs, those in the know will be at the infamous MOMs Ball (February 26). The super-secret society of mystics, orphans and misfits, throw the most decadent costumed party of the year always on the Saturday before Mardi Gras. Invitations can only be obtained through Krewe members who have been hosting this debauchery for over forty years so get your costume ready and find your way to the party.


The Parasol’s and Tracey’s Block Party on St. Patrick’s Day

This year, Mardi Gras falls on March 1st which means the end of king cakes and daily hangovers, and the beginning of lent and the heart of crawfish season. While most of the weekend tourists have returned to normalcy, the rest of us gather Tuesday morning for one last day of celebration. Downtown folks begin the day with the popular Krewe of St. Ann which meanders through the Bywater and Marigny before heading into the French Quarter around noon. Uptown folks gather with their friends and walk in a number of marching krewes like Julu, Mondo, or Pete Fountain’s Half Fast Walking Krewe. Down in the Treme, the Mardi Gras Indians march to their own beat showing off their newest feathered creations for the adoring fans. Families also gather around St. Charles Avenue to view the kings of Zulu and Rex as they lead their krewes on the final parades of the season. If you’ve been to carnival in New Orleans, but have never stayed for Mardi Gras, you are missing all the fun as the party continues all day long in the French Quarter and on Frenchmen Street in the Marigny. Until the clock strikes 12 and the NOPD mount their horses for the traditional sweep of Bourbon Street and the end of the festivities. Even though it’s Lenten season, there are still plenty of opportunities to party like a local. St. Patrick’s Day festivities normally begin the weekend before the big day with a Saturday parade down Magazine Street in the Irish Channel and the Irish Italian Parade on Metairie Rd. on Sunday afternoon. Both parades feature floats and marching krewes handing out green carnations and throwing everything from bars of Irish Spring soap to heads of green cabbage. The other two highlights of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities are the Jim Monaghan’s Irish Parade which rolls on Friday night down Decatur Street (March 18) and the Parasol’s/Tracy’s Block Party (March 17) that usually takes place on St. Patrick’s Day unless it falls on a Saturday. If weather permits, you can also catch the Mardi Gras Indians that Sunday as they gather in Central City for Super Sunday (March 20).

A Mardi Gras Indian on Super Sunday shows off his new suit

The big chief of each tribe leads the procession through the neighborhood followed by a block party at A.L. Davis Park. The following weekend is the annual BUKU Music + Art Festival (March 25, 26) at Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World on the Mississippi Waterfront. BUKU attracts a younger audience (17+up) and features EDM, hip hop, and indie-rock music. The party continues the following weekend with the fifth annual New Orleans Bourbon Festival (March 23-26) featuring tastings, parties, and seminars from some of the top distilleries in the world. Don’t miss the intimate dinner tastings featuring master distillers like Chuck Noe at New Orleans top restaurants. YLC’s Wednesday’s in the Square should be starting back up in late March, running ten weeks through the beginning of June every Wednesday at Lafayette Square in the CBD.


The Fleur de Que BBQ team throws out all the stops at Hogs for the Cause

This year’s late Mardi Gras has pushed Hog’s for the Cause back to the first weekend in April. This huge annual pig celebration takes place on April 1st and 2nd at the Lakefront and features over 80 BBQ teams, live music from great national bands like Shakey Graves and Bruce Hornsby, and award-winning BBQ. Past events have raised over one million dollars for pediatric brain cancer patients. This year’s April calendar also includes the NCAA Final Four, pitting the top four teams to survive the annual tournament. Expect huge concerts and activities at Woldenberg Park, the Convention Center, and in and around the Caesar’s Superdome on April 2nd and 4th. Easter weekend means family time in most cities, but in New Orleans it means the Chris Owens’ Easter Parade, led by now-89-year-old Chris Owens in her traditional dance costumes. On the other end of the French Quarter, the Gay Easter Parade meanders past the Bourbon Street gay pubs and features drag queens in summer suits and fancy hats riding aboard tuk tuks and classic convertibles.

The New Orleans Suspects at French Quarter Fest

Pushed back to April 21-24 to accommodate Easter, the French Quarter Fest is the annual celebration of New Orleans food and music. Dozens of stages throughout the French Quarter and along the Mississippi River feature top local musicians showcasing jazz, blues, R&B, and funk. The food at French Quarter Fest is just as big of a draw as the music. Local restaurants feature their top dishes at a fraction of the cost of dining in. Highlights include Jacques Imo’s shrimp & alligator cheesecake, Tujague’s seafood stuffed mirliton, and Muriel’s crawfish & goat cheese crepes. French Quarter Fest is free and open to the public.


Fans celebrate at the Acura Stage at Jazz Fest

The biggest and best festival in the city is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (April 29-May 7), always the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May. On hiatus the past two years due to Covid, this year’s lineup is sure to impress. Located in the Gentilly neighborhood, hundreds of thousands of people gather at the Fairgrounds for a dozen stages of live music from top local and national acts. Standouts are too numerous to mention, but let’s hope that fans can finally see some of the bands that were scheduled the past two years like the Foo Fighters, Dead & Company, Stevie Nicks, and Elvis Costello along with local acts like Trombone Shorty, the Radiators, and Jon Batiste. The other highlight is the amazing regional food featured throughout the festival. Fans line up for trout baquet, crawfish bread, cochon de lait po boys, and fresh squeezed strawberry lemonade. No one leaves hungry or disappointed. After the fest, reserve your table at one of our top local restaurants or catch some bad ass music at clubs like the Howlin’ Wolf, DBA, the Mapleleaf, or the Civic Theater. The Latin community and taco fans all over celebrate Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) at bars and restaurants around the city. Last year, Tacos del Cartel held a big, outdoor festival at Lafreniere Park in Metairie that is sure to grow into a big event.

Letting it all hang out at Bayou Boogaloo

The third weekend of May features Bayou Boogaloo on the banks of Bayou St. John. This once-free (now likely a small fee) three-day festival features local acts, food booths and crafts where fans can roll up in a kayak or bicycle on over to enjoy the day. Featuring some of the smaller, less-known local acts during the day and bigger, marquee names at night, Bayou Boogaloo is a great event geared toward the locals and families celebrating graduations. From the producers of Top Taco comes a new event in late May called New Orleans’ Food Fight (May 26) where forty of the top local restaurants are expected to compete in five categories: Top Traditional Dish, Top Creative Dish, Top Vegetarian Dish, Top Classic Cocktail, and Top Creative Cocktail. Expect great music, DJs, whimsical activations, and plenty of amazing dishes and cocktails. Rounding out the May calendar is the New Orleans Greek Fest (May 27-29) at the Holy Trinity Greek Orhodox Cathedral in Gentilly. This family-friendly event features plenty of Greek food, Greek music, hellenic dancing, and of course, baklava. 


Masks and skin are two things you’ll find at the New Orleans Gay Pride Parade

The weather might get hot in the summer in New Orleans, but that’s no reason to stop partying.  The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE) is back from June 8-11 with the Grand Tastings on Friday night and Saturday afternoon taking place at the Sugar Mill in the Warehouse District, and ViNola which features bottles of wine priced $60 and up. The annual French Market Creole Tomato Festival returns to its regular weekend on June 11 & 12 with a celebration of Louisiana’s iconic Creole tomatoes. Besides plenty of fresh tomatoes for sale, there are also cooking demonstrations, food booths, live music and children’s activities. June is Gay Pride Month and New Orleans celebrates in typical New Orleans fashion with a weekend festival and raunchy parade in the French Quarter (June 9-12).


Snoop Dogg performing on the main stage at Essence Festival

The annual Essence Fest & Culture Explosion (June 30-July 4) returns to its Fourth of July weekend with the country’s biggest celebration of Black music and culture. Past performers have ranged from Prince and Mary J. Blige to local favorites Big Freedia and PJ Morton. In addition to the huge shows at the Caesar’s Superdome, Black empowerment seminars take place at several halls in the Morial Convention Center. With two years off from Covid, expect big names and big fun at the year’s Essence Fest. Set to coincide with the world famous Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, the San Fermin in Nueva Orleans (July 10) is always in early July.

Runners gather at the Convention Center for the Running of the Bulls

Thousands of New Orleanians don their white and red outfits for the Running of the Bulls New Orleans-style. Participants run through the French Quarter and CBD getting chased by the Big Easy Rollergirls, who are dressed like bulls and wielding sturdy paddles. While no deaths have been reported at the New Orleans Running of the Bulls, you can expect a few runners passed out from heat exhaustion and overindulgence, and a few bruised bottoms. Some time in mid-July, the Bridge House hosts their biggest fundraiser of the year- Mr. Legs. The popular pageant features local celebrities and businessmen dressed in drag, strutting their stuff- and sometimes stripping- for adoring fans. In late July, cocktail enthusiasts and industry insiders gather in the French Quarter for the 20th Annual Tales of the Cocktail (July 25-29). What began as a walking tour has established itself as the premiere spirit event in the country with tastings, parties, and creative pop-up lounges at some of New Orleans hippest and hottest bars and restaurants. Tickets for the main events can be purchased on-line, but some of the past private parties have included everything from a Snoop Dogg performance sponsored by Diageo to Cazadores’ Bartender Boxing. Find an insider to get you on the list.


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the NOLA Bulls get ready for the spanks. Photo courtesy of Curt McClain

The first weekend of August is always Satchmo Summer Fest (August 4-6) at the downtown New Orleans Mint. These guys actually managed to pull off a small festival in 2021 despite the Covid restrictions. The tribute to Louis Armstrong festival presented by the French Quarter Fest organizers will be back again with multiple stages featuring live local jazz and blues, and food vendors serving some of New Orleans’ best festival foods. White Linen Night (August 6) is the biggest day of the year for New Orleans’ art galleries. Thousands of fans dressed in their dandiest white outfits flock to Julia St. for a mass opening of exhibits and parties. Vendors serve food and cocktails on the street while art-enthusiasts meander in and out of the small galleries. The downtown French Quarter galleries throw their own opening the following Saturday. Known as Dirty Linen Night (August 13), those same art-lovers stroll down Royal Street dressed in the already-worn linens from the week before. Coincidentally, the antithesis of those chic artsy events takes place the following day. The Red Dress Run (August 14) is a charity event put on by the Hash House Harriers of New Orleans. Dubbed a drinking group with a running problem, their largest event of the year sees thousands of men and women donning their finest red dresses for a massive bar crawl through the streets of downtown. The party starts early and continues all day until the sweaty participants find themselves dancing inside and outside of the Bourbon Street bars. Later in the month, a uniquely local event always takes place on Oak Street called Midsummer Mardi Gras. Members of KOAK host a costume parade that starts in front of the Maple Leaf and strolls down Carrollton Avenue, ending with a celebration in Marsalis Harmony Park (formerly Palmer Park). Krewe members return to the Maple Leaf for live music and heavy partying into the wee hours of the morning.


The crowd on Bourbon Street for the Southern Decadence Parade

Labor Day weekend is Southern Decadence (September 1-5) in New Orleans, our version of the Gay Pride Parade. Thousands of LGBTQ fans (mostly men) gather around the gay bars and pubs in the French Quarter for sweaty all-night parties and the popular parade on Sunday, which features drag queens, kitchy costumes, and a bit of nudity so leave the kiddos at home. Hopefully hurricanes won’t prevent them from celebrating again this year. The largest beer festival in Louisiana takes place on the third weekend of September. NOLA on Tap (September 17) features over 400 different beers from New Orleans and around the region plus live music and tasty food. The dog-friendly festival raises money for the LSPCA. If you’re looking for another family-friendly experience, take the kids to the popular Beignet Fest (September 24) at City Park, featuring dozens of beignets, both savory and sweet, plus live music, games, and crafts. Love in the Garden is City Park’s annual fundraiser that takes place in and around the Besthoff Sculpture Garden. The upscale event features live music and tasty dishes from some of New Orleans’ best restaurants. 


The big sign at the popular Top Taco Festival

October is full of festivals, both big and small, in New Orleans. Oktoberfest is one that is celebrated all over the world. Here in NOLA, thousands gather at the Deutsches House in Mid City every weekend in October for German beer, schnitzel, live music and plenty of line dancing. The National Fried Chicken Fest (October 1-2) stormed on this scene six years ago and has grown into one of the city’s largest festivals. The free celebration of all things fried chicken is moving out to the Lakefront in 2022, but fans can still expect some of the best fried chicken in the country along with a great lineup of local and regional bands. Across the river in early October is the 25th Annual Gretna Heritage Festival (October 7-9). The annual event in downtown Gretna features national touring bands, a Mexican heritage stage, arts and crafts, and games and rides for the kids.  Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival (October 14-16) presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation is a free weekend of bbq and some of the best living blues performers in the country. The intimate free event takes place at Lafayette Square in the Central Business District. Top Taco Fest (October 20) moved from the spring in New Orleans to the fall in Metairie last year, and plans to keep it there in 2022. The popular taco and cocktail competition is an all-inclusive event featuring some of the best Mexican and local restaurants serving up their best tacos and margaritas plus live Latin music, DJs, and creative pop-up lounges. That Saturday is the Krewe of Boo Parade (October 22) featuring spooky floats, marching krewes, high school bands, and costumed revelers rolling through the Marigny and French Quarter. The last weekend of October sees the return of the Voodoo Music + Art Experience (October 28-30) at City Park. The three-day festival is one of the city’s largest, and features top regional and national bands geared toward teens and twentysomethings. Voodoo leans heavily on EDM, hip-hop, heavy metal, and experimental music, and features fun carnival rides and interesting art installations. 


The Shrimp Po-Boys ready to serve at the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival

The first Friday night in November is Emeril Lagasse Foundation’s Boudin Bourbon & Beer (November 4th) at Champions Square. The event features New Orleans’ top chefs creating one-of-a-kind boudin dishes for adoring fans. Expect stiff bourbon cocktails, nationally-renowned bands, and intimate conversations with the chefs. The following night, the foundation hosts Carnivale du Vin (November 5) where local socialites taste fine wine and raise big money (over $3 million in ‘21) for Emeril’s charity. Depending on the Saints schedule, the annual Poboy Fest (November 13) usually takes place on the second Sunday in November. Dozens of the best poboys in town compete for festival awards while fans enjoy tasty bites and great live music on Oak Street from some of the best local brass bands around. Expect Shuck Cancer (November 16) to be back at Crescent Park in 2022. They successfully raised over $450,000 for the American Cancer Society in 2021. The annual fundraiser features raw oysters from dozens of different farms around the region, plus dishes from a dozen top chefs, great cocktails from Republic Beverage, and live local music. Every Thanksgiving, thousands of college football fans converge on the city for the annual Bayou Classic (November 25-26). In addition to the big rivalry game between Grambling State and Southern University on Saturday, fans gather in the Superdome Friday evening for the big Battle of the Bands featuring two of the most elite college marching bands in the country.


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Revelers atop a bar in the French Quarter at the Very Bad Santa Crawl. Photo courtesy of Curt McClain

December might be the lightest month of events in New Orleans, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. Check out the popular Christmas light display at City Park. Celebration in the Oaks features a driving tour of the park and a more intimate light display inside the amusement park. Out in Metairie, you can get a glimpse of some of Al Copeland’s famous light installations with a drive through Lafreniere Park during the month of December. Hundreds of Santas and Santa-wannabees gather in the French Quarter for the annual Running of the Santas (December 10). The fundraiser event starts in the afternoon with a bar crawl and ends with a throw-down party at Generations Hall in the Warehouse District. And the final celebration of the New Orleans calendar takes place on December 31st. New Year’s Eve festivities begin with the AllState Sugar Bowl parade during the afternoon in the French Quarter and Marigny with the game taking place the next day. The biggest party of the night takes place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Big Night New Orleans features the top local bands, nationally known DJs, burlesque performances, open bar and a VIP premium food and drink area.

All dates are subject to change

One Reply to “Best Festivals & Events in New Orleans”

  1. Hoping we all get to enjoy these events in 2022. Stir crazy has set in.I definitely need to get out and about again. Thanks for creating this site.

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